RUSTICO: We Must Join Hands To Manage Migration Crisis
Migration is an issue that affects Africa and Italy. How is this problem affecting Italy-Africa relations?
Italy has been committed since the beginning to help people not to die. We have been involved since the problem started becoming important. We have been helping the migrants to survive the terrible situation. And because the size is growing very fast, our capability of hosting people is overstretched. Our facilities are housing three to seven times more.
It’s such a huge movement that it becomes impossible for one single country to handle. That’s the reason that the Italian government has asked the European Union to share in the responsibility to help with the migrants. To share responsibility to attack and put an end to the traffic of human beings because this is the trafficking of human beings, which is done by gangsters. They do human violation. They kill them. People are escaping situations of war, poverty and searching for a better life, but the drama now is that when they arrive in Libya, the gangsters take advantage of them. You go there for help and they take everything; your wife, your kids. A lot of people disappear. It’s a terrible situation and there is no way to help them.
We are trying to do our best to help our African friends to come, but we need support from all Europe. The economy is weak and growing very slowly. Our economy is growing at zero point something percent, while your economy is growing at five to six per cent.
So, we are working with other European countries to expand the European Naval Mission to help people and they are working to counter the challenges and terrorism.
To succeed in keeping people in their countries, we need democracy, work. This is the only way. I’m not sure there is anybody who is happy to go on a journey of thousands of kilometers by feet, with high possibility of being killed, his wife and kids disappearing; just to go into a country, even if it’s a beautiful country. Then on arrival, you start to search for work where it is difficult to get jobs. And then try to go into another European country. This is a terrible drama. I think that we have to work together and the best way is to work in a way to develop the economy and agriculture. Our countries should also have a greater economic collaboration but this will not happen in one day, it will take time. But this is the future.
Could you tell us the scope of business relationship between Nigeria and Italy?
WE have excellent traditional relations between our two countries. We also have very strong economic ties. You have lots of Italians who arrived in Nigeria since one or two generations back. Lots of Italian companies operate in Nigeria traditionally and they have been successful and are happy being in Nigeria. They are proud to be in Nigeria. On the other side, in Italy, we have between 20 to 160,000 Nigerians presently living in Italy. A lot of them speak Italian and they are integrated in Italy. We have different cultures but similar characters. We understand each other very much and easily. There is a flow of excellent ties.
For Italy, Nigeria is at the moment, the most important market in Sub Saharan Africa. You are our second most important market. We believe in the future of our relations with Nigeria for several reasons. You are the second largest African producer of oil. You are the first demographic power in Africa. In 2050, there is a projection you will be the third in the world. After India, China, it will probably be Nigeria. The estimation is between 400 million to 450 million by 2050.
Already you are at the centre of ECOWAS, which is very important. This means that whatever company, that wants to come to West Africa, has to come to Nigeria. Africa has fastest growing economies in the world. We believe that with the right policies, you are going to grow the energy sector. Italy has the capability to partner in any sector that is of interest to Nigeria. On the other hand, Nigeria has a huge population; consequently a lot of educated manpower. There is a great deal of common interest between Nigeria and Italy.
Three days ago, I received a letter from the main association of enterprises, the equivalent of your MAN and NACCIMA put together. They want to know the opportunities in Nigeria for Italian companies. So, in the coming months, we are going to work to make country presentation.
When President Buhari was sworn in, Italy sent the minister of external trade and vice minister of economic development. We had a long discussion and agreed that it is very interesting to organise a major mission to Nigeria in 2016, but of course, we will have to agree with your government on this.
What’s the trade volume between Nigeria and Italy?
One and half years ago, it was three billion Euro.
You met with the President before the inauguration. What’s your impression in terms of strengthening the relationship?
President Buhari is a man with experience and we believe he is committed to making the country have a much better future. We believe that concerning Boko Haram, he is preparing a very effective strategy. We met with him at the G7. The G7 countries showed him support. We believe he is capable of delivering and as such, each of our countries is ready to help. I believe the President is committed.
This is a big opportunity to rediscover all your potentials. Nigeria was a giant in agriculture before the discovery of oil. You have the landmass. Your crops grow three times a year and develop much faster. In contrast, Italian crops grow once a year. That is not to talk of the potential for your mineral resources. You have something, which is very important for all countries in the world. Despite challenges, the reality is that a market of 170 million people is very attractive for any company in the world. This market is going to move very positively with the right policies in energy, gas sector, and improvement in the agriculture sector.
The car companies have been attracted. Italian major groups are interested to come and invest in Nigeria. You can attract investment from the rest of the world with the right policies. To stay out of Nigeria would be mistake. Of course, there is the issue of security but we trust that the President has the capability and the political will to surmount the challenge. He already has the strategy. He has presented it to the G7 and to US President Barak Obama.
We have room to invest in Nigeria. We have no limit. With the right policies, why would a company not invest in Nigeria? Look at what is happening in the telecommunication sector. How long did it take? 14 years. We are 60 million in Italy, in very few years; you developed a gigantic sector of over 100 million subscriber base. You also have Nollywood.
Boko Haram is a negative moment, but we really believe that soon it will be a thing of the past. We hope it will be destroyed very fast. This is an attack on humanity. We believe Nigeria can overcome this. I’m sure that with the political will of the President, there will be results soon.
Electricity is the major problem for the development of the country. The moment you have enough electricity –– you need 40,000MW; that’s what the experts said.
Are there some assistance you are giving to Nigeria in terms of security?
We have cooperation in the security sector. We have trained 350 to 400 people in the past few years,. I met with the Inspector General of Police a few days ago and I confirmed that they have sent to Rome, a group of 20 officers for training in counter terrorism and crime scene investigations.
Italy’s financial crime Police have cooperation with Nigeria’s EFCC. I met with the IGP and discussed about their needs in the specialised training area.
We were one of the few countries where terrorism started in Europe. It was terrible. We had to develop counter strategies. The Italian Police and our organisations are trained in counter terrorism because we had a very bad experience. We succeeded and won the war against terrorism. We have a huge experience we are willing to share with Nigeria.
Then, we have companies that are willing to cooperate with Nigeria in all sectors. Even in the defence sector, we produce everything. At the Presidency, there are two helicopters called Agusta on the Presidential fleet produced by Italy. In whatever field you go, we produce. In Europe, we are the second major manufacturing country. We have companies in more than 40 fields in Nigeria especially in the construction sector.
The fact that this time there is financial challenge doesn’t mean it is not possible to make investments because the moment the conditions are set, we are ready to bring in investments. I was talking with the minister the last time he came for Buhari’s inauguration, I told him it might be important to provide financing for investments and he said this is not a problem if there is a framework. And then it’s important to make Italians and Nigerians to understand this.
In your case, the positive thing with the crisis in oil prices in the international market, going down by 50 per cent is that it will encourage Nigerians to think about the potentials of other sectors. It will then be an extra source of revenue when the oil price goes up again. On the other side in Italy, we had a similar process; there is a stiff competition. The economy is growing slowly, not enough as much as the companies need. So we are searching for external markets. Nigeria is a natural market.